13. Brief respite

Wednesday 13 April 1988, Port Stanley, Malvina House Hotel

Another day off – I join the Koei Maru tomorrow, a little sooner than expected – I hope I can cope.

Shopped and watched Mad Max 3 and a dreadful film called Spasmo – I only watched half of it, it was so bad.

The West Store, April 1988
The West Store, April 1988

 

Thursday 14 April 1988, Koei Maru 30

And so, after much deliberation, my second term begins. Oh what have I done to deserve this? At least I have some cereal and also my own stocks. My room now is too hot, but I shan’t complain. I wrote a very mizzy letter to Deb, I was mizzy – it is terrible watching the land get smaller and the night come on.

I learned many things today:

  1. KSJ (the fishing company) want an observer to go to Montevideo. This could be me, Crag or John.
  2. the long-lining will begin in June.
  3. This voyage should end in 4-5 weeks.
  4. the KM30 is due to come into Port Stanley or leave on 27 May.

I would love to go to Montevideo, but not at the expense of a holiday home – I just won’t do it. If I could do both – chance would be a fine thing – then it would be very exciting.

Malvina Guest House bill
Malvina Guest House bill

 

Friday 15 April 1988, Koei Maru 30

We are still within sight of land – yahoo – it makes such a difference to me to be able to see the distant islands and mountains, it makes me feel less remote. Jigging was very good last night and the crew are still up. Poor bastards, almost 36 hours of hard physical work without sleep.

Within sight of land
Within sight of land

Talking of sleep, I don’t seem to be able to stop. I drop off at the drop of a hat. It will take a few days and some discipline to get into the sleeping regime of the crew. I suppose the secret is to stay awake later and later each night. It don’t half make you feel lousy though.

Saturday 16 April 1988, Koei Maru 30

I am now waking up around 1.00pm – the sun is up and the sky is blue, but I think we have lost the land.

Each morning there are videos of Japanese T.V. very interesting. Their sense of humour is almost entirely slapstick. Dreadful overacting and tons of commercials, many with western actors. Incredibly sexist, all of it.

While it is still fresh in my mind, I must remember the two children playing snowballs and war in the garden of the Malvina Guest House. They were employing spanish accents and saying things like ‘you dirty eenglish piig’ (being baddies of course). Amazing, the effects of war.

11. Land Ho!

Wednesday 6 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

My breakfast (actually yesterday) was steak again, with prawns, chips and macaroni. 3 enormous steaks was all I could manage. I am beginning to tire a little of them, but I do love them so.

The time is going quickly now. The days drift from one into another and I’m sure that in no time at all I shall be home on holiday. I think for me Italy has to be the answer.

I have just eaten a fruit salad that had some peculiar jelly-like cubes in it. They were clear and disintegrated much more easily than jelly. I asked Abe what it was and he said it was made from ‘sea leaf’ so I take it that it is agar gel from seaweed. It was completely tasteless and probably only in the fruit salad as a cheap filler, like sawdust in sausages.

From the same conversation it looks like we will be returning to Stanley on the 9th or 10th of this month – it is good to know that it is sooner rather than later!

Thursday 7 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

I can’t help thinking that my diary and my mind’s capabilities are being severely disrupted by the volume of letters I am writing – they are sapping my inspiration. I also feel cheap because of them – I write many of the same things to people – sometimes using exactly the same words…

e.g. Houses in Stanley – Allotment garden. ‘Well to do’ shanti town.

Reading a great deal – David Copperfield. Theroux.

Zzz snore! – I only hope that those to whom I am writing enjoy the letters I suppose it is better than no letter at all.

Her waggoner, a small grey coated gnat,

Not half so big as a little round worm

Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid;

Her chariot is an empty hazel nut 

Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,

Time out o’minds the fairies’ coach makers.

And in this state, she gallops night by night

Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love

O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies straight;

O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;

O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream;

Nananuma has been very sweet. He has made an order for cornflakes and milk for the next voyage – what a good bloke.

It is at this moment as I write (10 minutes to 7am) and it is still not light, and very little sign of becoming so.

Friday 8 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

Radioed Crag today – I definitely have a month off in Britain. Much of the conversation was about getting picked up, time in Stanley etc…

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I have talked with the crew much more over the past couple of days. The poor chaps care only about one thing – sex – they wait with eagerness to get to Montevideo, so they can see ‘street girls’. I find this very depressing – they discuss very little else.

I am in a bit of a void at the moment, reading wise; the print in HG Wells selected short stories is too small and I have difficulty reading it. The alternative, Conrad’s Typhoon, is impossible – the dictionary syndrome – it is irritation to a degree. I have a mental block with Conrad.

Saturday 9 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

How odd. I was sitting wondering what to do, trying to shake off a terrible dreariness when:

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So off I went. A message came from the KSJ office to say that the ETA for Koei Maru No30 in Stanley will be 7.00 tomorrow morning – they will arrange for me to be collected by the warrah.

This is good news – whoopee! yahoo! A day early

The other bonkers thing is that it has turned out to be bloody cold and when I came back from the radio room it was bloody snowing hard. Can you believe it? Yup. April bonkers showers.

Sunday 10 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

I got up with the sun, although I hadn’t been able to sleep a wink, I feel at least that I have been to bed. It is a very cold morning and the ship has arrived in Berkeley Sound – it is almost enough to make me cry, to see land again – it is beautiful and covered in a light scattering of snow. I must brace myself for the bad news that I might not be picked up until tomorrow – God I hope it’s today. A lovely thought – after my week in Stanley, only half of April will be left and then it will be May.

10. Romeo and Juliet

Sunday 3 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

I wonder how Arsenal did yesterday. I have written to Sean, holding him to his promise of sending me cuttings of Arsenal’s progress.

I have almost finished David Copperfield. What a deeply moving book – I find myself laughing and crying throughout the book. I shall be sad to finish it.

I spend my whole time looking forwards or backwards in time. I keep making plans for Deb and me to go on  a holiday together for a week – perhaps to a Greek island, or to Sicily or to Corsica or to Siena or anywhere – I live in that dream.

I also think much about my school days and the third chapter in my life – Cholmely, but I can’t put it on paper yet. (Cholmely was the upper-junior school that I went to from age 9-11)

I am learning Queen Mab’s speech – this is what I know.

She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes

In shape no bigger than an agate-stone

On the fore-finger of an alderman:

Drawn with a team of little atomies

Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep

I have finished D.C. – I am sad at this prospect. I feel I have myself lived the life of David Copperfield, that I have loved little Emily and that I do love Agnes. Having finished, I am left with the grim reality that I am thousands of miles away from my family and close friends. While Dickens can act to halt progression of my ‘disease’, he cannot cure it. I lived each minute of that book. I know intimately my Aunt, Mr Dick, Dr Strong and his wife Anne, Traddles whom I consider to be a best friend. What a sadness that they are all dead, the author too. Enough mourning. I must read some other books. (It’s lucky I bought so many!). (11 days for Copperfield!)

blog pics  001 10 July 15

A comment from the present day (2015) to put the significance of this last entry into some kind of context. I was never much of a reader in my youth, and only reluctantly read books on into my twenties, preferring to bury myself in my studies, or watching TV. Looking back, I think reading David Copperfield was a life-changing event. There are many of these kinds of events in this journal.

There are also the first signs of a ‘madness’ creeping into my writings, and it feels a bit strange reading them now.

Monday 4 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

Wrote to Pia and Louise B. Both good friends and good company – as before – writing to them made me feel I was with them – what an incredible thing the mind is.

Milk in a ring-pull can!!

blog pics  002 10 July 15

Sabudo gave me a crate of this stuff – he is looking after me very well indeed. what a good bloke.

Continued Mabs:

Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs;

The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;

The traces, of the smallest spider’s web;

The collars, of the moonshines watery beams;

Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;

I radioed Stanley and spoke with Crag. I will wait definitely until the KM30 comes into Stanley/Berkley Sound. I am worried about how much time I will actually get on land. I am also worried that I may be being short-changed a bit. Crag said Drin would be coming in, she has been at sea a month – this is not true, she has been at sea less time than me!

Tuesday 5 April 1988, Koei Maru 30.

Watched ‘Inspector Clouseau’ today on video – what a load of cobbler’s – it was an old film (’60s). The highlight for me was that ‘Catweasel’ was in it, playing a chocolate factory porter/watchman. It was a very weak film indeed, but I’m not sure whether it pre-dates or post dates the Pink Panther films. Wrote to Mr Radford and J&J.

8. Sleeplessness and a Penguin

Just to recap, this blog is about an incredible adventure I had in 1988 when I was a young man. It is a faithful transposition of my written journal into a digital format. I had trained as a marine biologist and fisheries scientist, and was offered a contract to work in the Falkland Islands. I am now about three weeks into my trip, and have been at sea for some 12 days.

Sunday 27 March 1988, Koei Maru 30.

Good ol’ Masamitsu gave me his business card today. Unfortunately I was unable to reciprocate this kind gesture.

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I couldn’t get to sleep for ages – my mind was active – thinking about some most obscure things.

– Like when Adam died and R&C came over and I hid in the garden, because I was ashamed of grief. I didn’t want to see R so unhappy.

– And the time I was to walk down Muswell Hill Broadway in my pyjamas and dressing gown…the ultimate humiliation.

There were other thoughts too. I couldn’t sleep. The result of this is that I have slept until 5.30pm and shall probably forego my stroll around deck. Needless to say is is another clear blue sky – the albatross patrol the boat in their usual manner – I suppose they are waiting for scraps.

My pen is running out – I fear I use more ink here than ever I did at Bangor on Newcastle University. it is just as well I brought plenty of spare cartridges. What a clever boy!

It is strange to think that for each entry or most entries in my diary for each day, I have slept between the beginning and the end somewhere. Eh?

Monday 28 March 1988, Koei Maru 30

Well, only one sample last evening. There were no squid in the early part of the evening and there seemed little point in sampling from so few squid.

Quite an evening for wildlife though – at about 1am I saw, in addition to the black browed albatross, the black/grey birds – ugly little things, and the fast flying swift-like which flit over ther waves (Storm Peterel). I also saw a penguin and a seal which was frolicking about.

The jigs picked up another hake and also a penguin. The poor thing was in shock, and was not enjoying the bright lights or my orange suit. It even looked a little sea sick. I was unaware of how large penguin feet are. It seemed to be uninjured though, and was released when jigging was over.

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I asked (rather naively and perhaps insultingly) if it was going to be eaten – Abe said certainly not and looked astonished at my question. I was always led to believe that the Japanese ate everything there was to be had from the sea.

Tuesday 29 March 1988, Koei Maru 30.

I could not, but could not sleep. I set down at 4am and lay for four or five hours without sleep. Radioed Port Stanley and spoke with Crag – it was good, and tried to sleep again but couldn’t for at least an hour. Then I slept until 6pm. Completely bonkers.

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I am a little annoyed. It seems I have made little or no impression yet with the work I am doing and also with the Department itself. I don’t know, but I don’t feel as though they really care much about me, only the project I am working on. I can’t see that I’m an unlikable chap, I try maybe too hard.

I seem to be going through a bit of a bad patch – perhaps it is too much Dickens. I didn’t write any letters yesterday, in fact I didn’t do much. I am in a slump again and must act on it. I miss Deb and want to see her, or at least read her letters. I am now half way through this voyage, and nearly 10% through my contract.

I am keeping my earring hole open by daily putting a paperclip through it. Unhygienic but effective. I left all my earrings at home.

I wrote again to Mum and Ad. It’s funny, but I never seem to be able to express myself as well on paper (especially in letters), as when I compose things in my head. Perhaps I should make use of my tape recorder.

7. Roll, pitch, yaw

Friday 25 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

I have made friends formally now with the bosun bloke – he is called Abe (Abey) (I don’t know the spelling but that is as close as I can get) – he has been fishing for 20 years, most of that time in West Africa – from Senegal to Angola – for tuna. He learned his English at that time. He doesn’t like working on a jigger for two reasons; it is night work and you miss the days and it is not hot in the Falklands…well, compared to the equator, I should say not.

I am concerned about my weight – I seem to have lost a great deal it has occurred to me on going to sleep early this morning.

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Saturday 26 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

I have established that ‘breakfast’ is at 7-8pm. An odd time. Today I had two steaks – lots of pieces of tuna cooked on the pan and some lettuce and bread – a whole stack of it, with margarine and marmite. I think it all has had somewhat of an adverse affect on my poor stomach. Being 12:30am I can now tick off yesterday in the back – great! It has started up a bit choppy – the ship is rolling quite heavily at times and my stuff gets flung across the floor, or from one end of the cupboard or fridge to the other.

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The clinometer registers the amount of roll – I will investigate. I drank my first coffe from a can tonight while working in the pound – ‘Radar’ gave it to me. It was white with two sugars and Luke warm, but refreshing nonetheless. I was expecting much worse. Having said that, it was like drinking a coffee at the end of a dinner party which had been neglected for a quarter of an hour, due to excessive chat about this or that…what are you up to these days? Well I’m…=cold coffee.

It turned cold last night (today). I was cold in bed but too tired to put on my tracksuit – a tiresome problem encountered many times at Strathmore Crescent, Manor House Road and Holyhead Road. (These were all student digs I had at Newcastle and Bangor Universities).

I am totally absorbed by David Copperfield, I hardly want to put it down, I seem to be reading at the expense of all other things – which is not bad, since the other things tend to be gazing into space, sleeping or writing.

6. Retrospective

It is still the early days of my adventure, but things are beginning to settle down a bit. The next entry contains what could be seen as a blog within a blog, or a journal within a journal where I start to list out events from my younger life, in particular my school days.

To assist a little, I will annotate in bracketed italics, where appropriate, the bits that need interpretation…there is a lot of schoolboy jargon).

Monday 21 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

Today I feel much better. I got on with my work last night and did two samples. I was on the verge of wimping out because I felt so terrible, but am glad that I hung on in there.

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I tried writing lyrics for a song last night – corny or what? – but the title is good:

‘Living in sin without you’

The sea has died down a little and I have become a bit more used to it. I hope I am over the worst. I still can’t get hold of this sleeping until 2 or 3 pm each day (although I would find it easy at home)

‘In Patagonia’ is a most enjoyable book. I would love to write the same way as Bruce Chatwin.

I found out last night that there are 21 crew on the Koei Maru 30 – hence my hard hat being number 22.

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I am in inspired mood. I want to write about my schooldays. I should do it now when I can still remember things and people clearly. Why ever not? Just because I’m only 24 it doesn’t mean I can’t reminisce.

Started at Highfield  (my preschool). Red dough. Wendy House. Adrian W.

Highgate Primary (my primary school).

A large hall with cheap paintings and a glass roof in the middle. Prayers and assembly, lunch and play. School plays.

A playground, climbing frame, wasp stamping, kiss chase, water fountains. A bloody nose, a wall over to the junior school, hurling abuse and insults. Playground toilets, a boy with a big head and orange pee, a boy whose trousers were pulled down in the playground.

Teachers – Mrs Burke (Head), Miss Price ‘can you hear a pin drop?’, Miss Cavanah?, Mrs Leigh. Miss Gillian? who was kind and had ‘magic cream’ for grazes.

Friends – Philip Smith, bangers and mash and Newcastle, skinhead. Steve Davies, Judith Warren, Louise, Basite, Judith?, Vivienne, Toby, Ulrick and the sandpit incident that led to a smack from Mrs Burke.

Looked after frequently by Mrs Knight – fish fingers and blancmange. In the hall were gauntlets, riding helmet and goggles.

Sports day, Toby cheating in the sack race.

On to Highgate. Pete, Richard, Julia, Leanna, Karen. Fizzy gang, Sekeden guns, crushing green conkers at Richard’s (making poison). Watching TV, Lost in Space, Ali Bongo, Asterix books, Smash-ups (ramming Lego cars towards each other until they broke), Snow. Move house to Woodberry Crescent.

Highgate School – Ingleholm (the junior school), like a limpet with mum, tears etc. Assembly with huge hymn sheets on the wall. Alec Taylor, science and plays. Miss Jarvis, hated me and vice versa. Mrs Povey, nature, released a toad I found which broke my heart. Miss Wilmott, recorder lessons, crush, ancient history, chocolates when I was late once. Miss Jones, Miss Brown.

Tuesday afternoons was a switch between drama, art and woodwork – ace. Saturday mornings – school ugh! Uniform grey flannels.

Phrases – Bungleholm (corruption of Ingleholm), bish-bungle (said when making a mistake), skills, skillos (said while holding your lapels to announce that you had done something good, or won something), the ‘pen’ and ‘pen football’ (the ‘pen’ was a fenced off area a little bigger than a tennis court, where all the junior boys were herded for breaks. The football was usually about 25-a-side, and usually Arsenal v Spurs)

Classmates – Adam W, Justin B, Matthew P, Paul D, John B.

Houses were Drake, Shakespeare and Raleigh. Athletics day only one medal ever in the 4x100m relay, thanks to Andrew G. Mr Trewellah, gym and swimming. Cricket with Mr Taylor on Tatham field, also rounders.

Indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. ‘Cap, Mac and outdoor shoes’ (when it was raining). Fight with Jerry M. Falling out of the car after a piano lesson. Violin lessons with a horrible teacher. Rainstorm when the basement was flooded.

School skiing holidays – Gurtis, Cauterets, Leysin, Leysin – David D getting knocked out in a pillow fight.

A week off school for filming in the South of France for an AA commercial – brilliant time. (How I would love to get my hands on a copy of the commercial, but I expect it has been destroyed by now.)

Tuesday 22 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

The sea is once again calm and the sun is blazing – I have just seen the Dornier fly past. I saw it circle over to some other jiggers and willed it to come over so I could wave, but in the efficiency of FISHOPS, it has a pre-arranged course which it sticks to. No time to wave at lonely observers. The job is becoming less and less painful – the first week was the worst. I have now got into a routine and am much happier. But oh God I miss home.

I have tried to compose properly my first song, but am having great difficulty being original – I am sure this is a problem for many musicians/songwriters, although it would be arrogant and false to put myself amongst such people.

I fear, although I can’t believe it, that I might be getting a mild cold or an allergy or something.

Five steaks in one day! What can I say, except yummie, and there is still one more meal to go. I find the mix of fish and meat very difficult to cope with, but am getting used to it.

Wednesday 23 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

Have seen nor heard anything of the military exercise. Not surprising out here at sea. I wish I could write like Bruce Chatwin. Perhaps one day I will.

When I woke up I forced myself upon a tin of COOP sago (creamed) cold. It was actually not too bad, and will keep hunger away for a while. Today I will ask Nananuma for some butter.

Oh for some M&S chipsticks. A craving is a terrible thing, it eats away at one’s will and cripples your every thought. Who shall I write to today? Gavin and Matt, Pat, Roy and Gordon.

Thursday 24 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

Instead I wrote to Gavin and Matt and Martin Stephenson (a musician that I loved, and still love, from my days at Newcastle University. Still gigging), basically to see if he is as good a bloke as I think he is. I feel he won’t be able to resist replying to a letter from the Falklands – that is if he gets it.

Last night a second jigger moored up behind us because by 12:30 am we were full of squid and they weren’t. I took some pictures. Apparently it is fairly common practice. I don’t think I am going to find out anything new this voyage.

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Called Port Stanley on the Radio but had to go via KSJ and wait for John Barton to get to the KSJ office. It was nice to have a long chat in English. I was able to express myself without having to resort to ‘simple’ English or without having to write.

I have finished ‘In Patagonia’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now on to ‘David Copperfield’. I am challenging myself to finish it before the end of this voyage – could be tough. Six days for ‘In Patagonia’.

I must write some more letters. I may run out of envelopes. I hope not.